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Full text of "The Assessment of Competence: A New Field of Research"

ISSN 0281-9864 



The Assessment of Competence 
A New Field of Research 



Bernhard Bierschenk 






1995 



No. 54 





Lund University 
Sweden 



KOGNITIONSVETENSKAPLIG 
FORSKNING 

Cognitive Science Research 



The Assessment of Competence 
A New Field of Research 



Bernhard Bierschenk 



1995 No. 54 



Cognitive Science Research 

Lund University 
Sweden 



Postal address Editor Adm. editor 

Cognitive Science Research Bernhard Bierschenk Helge Helmersson 

P.O. Box 7080 Department of Psychology Department of Business Adm. 

S-220 07 LUND Lund University Lund University 

SWEDEN 



Abstract 

Based on typical tasks required in ability testing, a general conclusion drawn in the in- 
ternational research literature is that intelligence is not different from e.g. McClelland' s 
achievement testing. To many psychologists this means that the concept of competence is 
insignificant and that intelligence as well as related aptitude tests are sufficient in the 
assessment of performance. Further, it is generally assumed that the intelligence quotient (IQ) 
constitutes a measure of cognitive development. Moreover, it is believed that the IQ correlates 
more or less perfectly with intellectual achievements. These assumptions are challenged 
because they are the result of obvious misconceptions. The present article is about a method 
for competence assessment that allows an entirely different approach to the study of the 
sources and conditions of competence development. The method builds on the functional 
analysis of text building behaviour. In this respect it makes use of the discontinuities in 
produced text as the only reliable observations from a scientific point of view. The method has 
been made known as Perspective Text Analysis (PTA). Its task is to characterise the 
mechanism that has been discovered to govern text production and to foster an understanding 
of the actual processes of movement in language. It follows that the study is on the expression 
of competence through a functional analysis of qualitative stability in text building behaviour. 
This incorporates the double aspect of time into the approach, partly by means of an algorithm 
that takes care of the dynamics in text building behaviour, partly through the sequencing in text 
production that secures its evolutionary aspect. Aspects of competence are presented 
concerning five different areas. By means of global state attractors resulting from the 
perspectivation of anticipated consequences, mental determinants are presented. On the basis 
of established temporal morphologies, it is shown what kind of determinants constrain one's 
thinking under varied experimental conditions. 



Brain and Behaviour 

The most fundamental distinction in psychological research has been introduced by the artificial 
imposition of a dividing line between studies of mental processes on one hand and the study of 
behaviour on the other. The underlying assumption made by almost all researchers is that 
human experience requires the processing of information as carried out by cognitive functions. 
Further, it is assumed that the processing of sensory input is functionally specific and 
dependent on a motor output which is the basis of behavioural feed-back loops making 
possible hypothesis testing and the development of interactive strategies of behaviour. The 
classical hypothesis states that visual pathways of the brain break a "retinal image" down into a 
number of abstract features which are processed by independently working cognitive functions. 
Under this hypothesis it is assumed that these features are stored in what is called memory. It 
follows that the studies of mental processes concern the limitations in capacity of the cognitive 
functions involved in the creation, abstraction, and manipulation of abstractions in order to 
generate appropriate behaviour. 

The main question raised in the study of intelligent behaviour is whether and to what 
extent the concept of memory can be used as a suitable construct that can explain cognitive 
processes without requiring a further reduction. Constructs are believed to constitute the basis 
of the execution of complex patterns of behaviour. They are established by testing the 
following kind of expression: (Y = /(X)). The expression says that X is the score on a test that 
is assumed to measure the construct and Y is the performance score. The usually made 
inference is that an experimental subject doing well on test X will perform well on the activity 
Y. The zero hypothesis corresponding to this model would imply that no relationship between 
test performance and activity performance can be established. 

But test scores per se do not attract attention in the discussion of a particular construct. 
What concerns the researcher the most is the establishment of its biological roots and the 
extent to which inferences about its biological validity can be justified. The biological roots of 
one of the most discussed and debated constructs in psychology, namely intelligence, has been 
of great concern to Jean Piaget's (1952) most characteristic research: "The origins of 
intelligence in children". 

The Behavioural Foundation of Intelligence 

Basic to Piaget's behavioural study of intelligence are such activities as (1) exploration, 
(2) manipulation, and (3) play. A model that gives formal expression to the observation that an 
experimental subject can recursively carry out a certain action which by chance has led to an 
advantageous movement in accidental response to a particular event is the following: 
(Ejai a2E2). The model as discussed in Bierschenk (1994) builds on the assumption that visual 
exploration and the acquisition of skills successively become internalised. The urge to find out 
about the environment and to control the effect of one's actions upon it is conceived of as the 
strongest evidence for a motivation to attain competence. It follows that Piaget's model 
identifies "competence" with knowledge and knowledge with success of mastering important 
features of the environment. As Piaget (1978) argues, intelligent behaviour cannot be based on 
retrieval of information from memory. Instead it has to be based on transcendence. The result 
of this need of diversification is the necessity of a transcendent solution as opposed to a copy 
retrieved from memory. Therefore, mental processing may be understood with respect to its 
positivistic form (i. e. form of symbolism) on one hand and its variability (i. e. degree of ab- 
stractness) on the other. This frame of a genetic epistemology has been integrated into the 
study of behavioural genetics (Hakstian & Vandenberg, 1979; Royce & Mos, 1979). These 
researchers have taken over the traditional framing of the study of competence according to 
the following two hypotheses. The first one assumes that behaviour is teleonomic in nature and 
aimed to transform the environment as well as to preserve experience and to increase the 



organism's capacity to structure this environment. Therefore processes of genetic reproduction 
become the key to the explanation of intelligent behaviour. The alternative hypothesis proposes 
a cultural or environmental factor to be responsible for the major part of variation in 
competence development (Sue & Okazaki, 1990). Thiessen (1979) suggests that "assortative 
mating" is responsible for maximising the variation in the "gene pool" of a population. Ac- 
cordingly, one might expect a filter effect working from the endowment of intelligence toward 
cultural and socio-economic layers. Based on Vandenberg's (1972) study the following filtering 
process shown in Figure 1 has been discovered during courtship in assortative mating of 
humans. 



Figure 1. 

Vandenberg's Assortative Mating Filter 
Explained Variance 

Cultural 
& 
Socio-Economic 
Factors 




Morphological 

& 

Personality 
Characteristics 



The highest degree of assortative mating appears when certain similarities and 
differences in genetic, physiological and behavioural aspects pass through a "frame of 
reference" of specified expansion. Technically this expansion has been calculated by means of 
the product-moment-correlation (r) which have been converted into proportions of common 
variance (r^). The culture hypothesis gets support in Vandenberg's observation that socio- 
economic and cultural factors account for the major part of the variance explained. This 
suggests that cultural values and family practices affect competence development and upward 
mobility more than anything else. Moreover, it seems to support the common conviction that 
occupational success is highly dependent on similarities in socio-economic factors. 

After passing through this frame of reference, another filter effect can be observed. 
Selection is based on a much more restricted range, because now it is made on the basis of a 
general intelligence factor as well as on attitudes and beliefs. For example it is believed that 
schools and comparative social institutions have impact on the development of competence. 



Further it is believed that they contribute to systematic differences in occupational achievement 
(Barret & Depinet, 1991). But screening at this level accounts for only a small part of common 
variance between mates. 

When selection is made with an eye on highly specific morphological and personality 
characteristics of the mate, such as weight, neurotic tendencies and other specific aspects the 
common variance proportions are negligible. In behavioural genetics this has been interpreted 
as an indication of a mechanism that maximises the number of common genes in the offspring 
generation. The mechanism is conceived of as a preventer of directional selection. This may be 
taken as a partial explanation why the nomological network has been unable to demonstrate the 
predictive value of intelligence. 

Moreover, the construct of intelligence seems to be useless in the prediction of one's 
success on problem solving tasks (Dorner & Kreuzig, 1983; Dorner, 1984). Problem solving in 
its simplified or purified form has been approached by means of computer simulation (Newell 
& Simon, 1972). They showed that certain classes of puzzle solving situations could be at- 
tacked with techniques of relevance for solutions of academic problems such as mathematics. 
These have a fixed space, which means that learning as a precondition is excluded. Informal 
observations of recent simulations of multiple problem solving tasks indicate that peak 
performances do not predict the existence of an acceptable and criterion oriented problem 
solving strategy. As an answer to this kind of "error variance", Anderson's (1993) ACT model 
is often cited as an example of a procedure that can achieve the acquisition of problem solving 
skills. Performance of the model builds on production rules which are defined over event- 
action-pairs. The description of the event is a statement of the conditions under which the 
action has to be performed. Thus the degree of abstractness of the action operator marks the 
range of problems to which Anderson's model can be applied. Even with the incorporation of 
aspects from learning theory, problem solving is still far removed from the prediction of 
performance on real tasks. 

The methods developed thus far do not provide any feasible mechanism by which 
academic or occupational performance can be predicted despite the fact that considerable 
efforts have been invested in the development of methods for their prediction. Entire 
institutions, as for example Educational Testing Service, have been set up for the 
standardisation and validation of "mental test scores" (Lord & Novick, 1968). This kind of 
activity includes all types of mental abilities and scholastic aptitudes. Despite enormous 
investments that have been made over the years, no successful definition of the concept of 
competence has been achieved nor has it been possible to demonstrate what "these scores 
really mean" (Helms, 1992). 

Against this background it may not come as a surprise that McClelland (1973) argued 
that aptitude test in general and intelligence tests in particular can predict neither occupational 
success nor other important life outcomes. In addition, he questioned the value of grades 
earned in school as valid predictors of occupational success in later life. Because correlational 
results are used to accept or reject an articulated hypothesis on the basis of tests of 
significance, this assertion makes sense if the statement is coupled with the observation that 
academic performance predict job performance successfully only to the degree that there exists 
an underlying relationship with social status. 

McClelland takes the credit of having observed that psychologists have been unable to 
make a clear cut distinction between intelligence and competence. It was his paper on "Testing 
for Competence rather than for 'Intelligence' that directed public attention to the confusion of 
both notions. Though, despite the fact that McClelland, his co-workers and followers have 
managed to be widely recognised and often cited, they have not been able to initiate a change 
toward the assessment of competence. The notion remains to be used as "container" for 
disposal of all kinds of generative cognitive capabilities as well as social, and behavioural skills. 



At the root of the problem one finds a continued ambiguity in its definition. Because of 
McClelland's broad as well as trait-based definition, the notion "competence" is still without 
contrast in relation to intelligence and thus without any possibility to serve its purpose of 
defining what is within its boundaries. Since it covers almost any aspect of Murray's (1963) 
"Explorations in Personality", e.g. motives, skills, aspects of one's self-image, social role, and 
body of knowledge, it is useless as scientific concept and basis for the establishment of a 
psychological construct. In general, any enduring characteristic of a person that shows 
regularity is taken as an expression of competence. 

The situation becomes even more complicated by McClelland's content-oriented 
validation approach. This means that underlying aspects of a person's performance are 
"measured" by letting the subject describe what makes him performing successfully on the job. 
Confidence is placed upon self-description and the classification of statements. Moreover, the 
Picture Story Exercise has been defined as a content-valid assessment technique, because it 
supports inferences based on mental processes, i. e. thought patterns used on the job. Though 
on the basis of the generally accepted research paradigm content-oriented strategies have to be 
judged as inappropriate. From this point of view mental processes can only be validated with a 
construct-oriented approach. Horst (1966, p. 268) noted: 

"Projective or unstructured tests should not even be regarded as appropriate psychological 
measuring instruments. We must recognise, of course, that great pressures are exerted by 
clinical and other psychologists to preserve the unstructured free-response, free-interpretation 
type of measuring procedures, because they feel that from such instruments they get a far 
better understanding of the individual than with the highly structured procedures. But evidence 
to date in support of this argument is poor, and the nature of the case is difficult for the claims 
of these persons to be objectively evaluated." 

By applying this perspective to McClelland's approach to competence, it becomes obvious that 
a method entirely built on a content analysis of told stories cannot be considered to be 
scientifically acceptable. Content-oriented validation strategies are barely tolerated by the 
nomological network as a basis for support of inferences about mental processes and even less 
respected. 

Unfolding Competence 

Progress in becoming a person and gaining significance begins in the head of the 
individual subject. Therefore a method is required that makes explicit to what extent a 
particular subject can exert perspective control over his existence. Overview or per- 
spectivation implies co-operation between a person's experience of his physical and social 
environment and the cognitive integration the person can achieve of ecologically significant 
information. In this sense growth implies the development of a firmly integrated conceptual 
structure. But independent of how resolutely ecological invariants have been picked up by the 
perceptual system, one must still be capable of expressing one's perception of actions and 
events symbolically, i. e. through natural language. Otherwise, the perceived cannot be made 
knowable for oneself or others. 

The physical conditions for the study of a language specific pickup of information is the 
production of a verbal flow. The flow is always intentionally produced and comprises 
necessarily an orientation which means that information becomes perspectivated. During 
production, numerous periods and fractions within periods help differentiate and organise the 
embodiment of objectives and a perspective. Thus the formation and deformation 
characteristics of a particular text have significance for the embedding of one's 
conceptualisations. A functional analysis of conceptualisations implies the development of a 
method that can make use of the discontinuities in produced text. From a nomological point 



of view, these are the only reliable observations that can be made on a text. The method 
developed, has been called Perspective Text Analysis (PTA). 

PTA builds on the discovery of an algorithmically and dynamically operating 
mechanism. This is the AaO mechanism whose medium of operation is language. This 
mechanism governs the conservation of competence through the structuring of language. 
Because it is founded on the Kantian Schema axiom, it has a direct connection to Kant. Kant's 
influence is acknowledged in that natural language is conceived of as the product of an 
underlying mental reality that remains invariant throughout transformation. The AaO 
mechanism is the device for communication among functionally defined strings of graphemes. 
It may in fact be regarded as the very basis of the definition of language as a biological system. 
From this statement follows an immediate connection to the physiology of perception and 
consequently to Helmholz, who conceived the Kantian principle of conservation of energy as 
the embodiment of invariance underlying all natural transformations (Prigogine & Stengers, 
1985). An environmentally determined theory of perception that explicitly builds on the 
Kantian-Helmholz postulate of invariants has been proposed by Gibson (1979). 

Of particular import for an understanding of the reality postulate of PTA is its 
incorporation of the Gibsonian "Law of information" (Kugler & Turvey, 1987), which means 
that there is no reason for separating a theory of perception from a theory of action. They 
contrast in that the tasks of perception are to digest, abstract, and generalise, while the tasks of 
action are to spell out, concretise and particularise (Turvey, 1977). It follows that the study of 
verbal expressions has to be carried out under the assumption that text building is a process 
where acts evolve by successively shifting tasks of action and tasks of perception. The 
mechanical work involved in the production of text is seen as an expression of the true process 
of transformation whereby the conditions of wholeness and implicate order (Bohm, 1990) 
become established. These are physical and informational in nature which means that text 
building is not only a transmission of movement. Instead co-ordination of perception and 
action is essential. In coalition, both co-operate in a systematic manner toward the evolution of 
a mental structure. This incorporates the double aspect of time (Prigogine, 1993) into the 
method, partly by means of the AaO algorithm that takes care of the dynamics in text building 
behaviour, partly through the sequencing of the movements carried out during text 
production. The product of text building is, through self-referential stages in discourse, 
involved in its own synthesis. Self-referentiality secures the evolutionary aspect of text. 

The AaO model realises a fundamentally new way of assuming the variability of its 
components. The AaO as a clause/sentence model is functional and encompasses the double 
function of time involved in "becoming" (Prigogine & Stengers, 1985; Prigogine, 1980). The 
"functional clause" is a variable itself of the act that constitutes the text as a whole, that is as a 
synthesis in the Kantian sense. Thus it is something inherent, which repeats itself but gives 
constancy to the text in order to make it comprehensible. The constancy function is 
represented by the verb which thereby forms a link between perception (AaO on the macro 
level) and action (AaO on the micro level). As a consequence the operationalisation of AaO 
into the PTA method has created theoretical unification of perception and action. 

It is unquestionable that the dynamics typical of a naturally evolving text has great 
communicative value irrespective of what rules of grammar the discovered pattern would elicit. 
There is every reason to believe that "original language" is not a matter of conventions and that 
information emerges most significantly in "rule breaking behaviour". In contrast to common 
linguistic models, the AaO axiom offers a rigorous way of modelling qualitative change. It 
provides for the detection of the governing agent-function materialised by an "I" in discourse. 
The way this "I" is laid out and structured has become accessible by the integration of the 
Kantian with the Gibsonian perspective. Through this approach the agent's responsibility has 
been put into focus, without which the perceptual determinants would hardly be transformed 
into mental determination. 



The method together with experimental results is continuously being made available to 
an international audience through the series Kognitionsvetenskaplig forskning (Cognitive 
Science Research, ISSN 0281-9869). Educational Resources Information Centre (ERIC) as 
well as Information Services in Psychology (PsycINFO) is reviewing the series. The method is 
represented in a handbook edited by Erwin Roth, entitled "Sozialwissenschaftliche Methoden" 
(Social Science Research Methods, 3rd edition, 1993). 

Results to be presented will refer to different areas of professional life and demonstrate 
whether or not temporal morphologies can be established. What kind of evolutionary processes 
are governing competence development will be given a rigorous expression by this method. 
The results of the method will be presented within a topological space. By means of global 
state attractors, various behavioural expressions of competence will be identified and 
compared. These are taken as indicators of different degrees of functional stability in the 
development of competence. 

Modelling Text Building 

Development of competence is conceived to be rooted in an evolutionary process that 
incorporates the Schema as foundation of co-ordinative structuring. Its operation is made 
explicit in "Text Building Behaviour". However, it cannot be interpreted from textual surface, 
because it is not bound to lexical components. Competence emerges in the form of a concept, 
whose contours are built up as a result of the co-operative mechanism of syntax. From the 
thermodynamic point of view emphasis in modelling has to be placed on the irreversibility in 
the process of differentiating a perspective. To speak with Prigogine, natural systems become 
structured through the flow of energy and their own internal constraints. Moreover, all natural 
systems exhibit multiple layers of embedded networks through which the energy associated 
with a flow is conserved. 

Modelling the conservation of a verbal flow necessarily connects description to the in- 
troduction of a physical model and a book-keeping strategy that helps mapping the 
conservation across macro- and micro level descriptions of the proper "flow fields". The 
Agent-Objective dependency in the AaO formalism stipulates that co-operation between both 
has to create a particular mode of resource use, namely the pendular clocking ("limit cycle") 
mode, which forms the perspective on the objectives of a particular text. A special purpose 
system of computer programs, called PERTEX, allows for the description of the flow-field 
processes at three different levels: 

At the first level of description potential energy is described according to the classical power 
model of physics (Feekes, 1976). The description concerns the mechanics of assembling and 
disassembling conservation. Based on observed geometric symmetry, the distributional 
characteristics of text mass and related properties such as length and time are accounted for. 
The geometric "layout" or distribution of the A's and O's constitute the conservation of a 
thermodynamic field. Whenever the atomistic A's and O's interact the larger scale of analysis 
defines a developmental field. Each field is of a certain length, because it consists of a variable 
number of A's and O's. For metrical purposes the AaO's are counted as Blocks. What is 
achieved by PERTEX at this level is a mass-dependent description of the viscous-elastic 
properties that belong to the kinetics of the language system. 

At the second level, an alternative description is introduced through PERTEX. Interactive 
violence associated with the mass-dominated interactions of level one are now removed from 
the processing of text. That the description is no longer forceful implies that intentional and 
orientational aspects are taken into account. It is in this latter sense that verbal flows and their 
interactions provide for an informational description of the pattern of rhythmic movement 
expressed through the asymmetrical relation between the view-, stand-, aid-, and set-points of 



a text and the textual agents. Its most important property is a connection matrix as key 
expression and instrument for uncovering the breaking of internal constraints as well as for 
studying the active role the structural relations play in defining an "arrow of time" and thus a 
perspective. In using the theoretical construct of the kinetics of a verbal flow, observed 
macroscopic motion is taken to constitute the basis for identifying trajectories of attractor 
states. Put into variational perspective, these are the local boundary conditions that define the 
local minima to the potential carried by the agent-function. A matrix is automatically produced 
and can also be used to reproduce the binary matrix that describes the strict dependent relation 
between the unique points of a particular component and its unique agents. In case of a re- 
distribution of concentrated energies, the perspective represents a transformation of the 
direction of the process that has generated configuration of the respective objective 
component. This means that, in the perspective, assemblies of patterns of strings of graphemes 
pertaining to the objective component can be picked up and transformed. By employing the 
pendular clocking mode, perspective invariants can be extracted. Extracting the perspective of 
a text is a unique quality of PTA. 

At the third level operate the irreversible processes according to the second law of 
thermodynamics. These processes are the source of order and associated with the functional 
grouping of graphemes or strings of graphemes. Grouping implies assembling of patterns of 
strings of graphemes and the making of constraints. In a most important sense, text has its 
origin in the dissipative processes. This implies that their properties describe text as a viscous 
and elastic medium in which a rich variety of kinetic properties lawfully generate kinematic 
flow fields. These in turn specify kinetic variety. Coherent text is therefore the result of rate- 
independent structures (Pattee, 1977, 1980, 1982) as produced by the second law. All 
irreversible verbal flows involve the breaking of constraints, which provides the basis for a 
study of how a low-dimensional description of macroscopic work cycles can be achieved 
despite the high dimensionality characterising the very many micro work cycles involved in text 
building. Their co-ordination implies that the AaO formula is instantiated at the highest level of 
co-ordinative freedom. At this level the formula is brought to bear on the physics that governs 
the co-operative activity of its constituent component. This means that co-operativity is identi- 
fied with a minimal ensemble of two variables or textual elements. When this co-operation is 
supported by dynamic relations as well as affinity relations between the two components (A, 
O), boundary conditions arise and act on the variables of these components. Provided that 
multivariate boundary conditions have been established, oscillations can be produced in the 
process of text building. These generate the instabilities that transform potential energy from 
mechanical (macro-modes) to thermal (micro-modes). Whenever conservation can be 
described geometrically, lawful physical relations between kinetic and kinematic processes can 
be established. 

Reliability and Validity 

Founded on logical positivism, classical test theory makes the experimental subject the 
object of measurement. Inherent in the classical design of the behavioural sciences is an 
orientation toward the subject's ability to attend property (p) of stimulus (X) and to develop 
appropriate judgements. This has resulted in behavioural semantics which views the total 
outcome of common sense statements on pen-and paper tests as proper responses to 
prescribed conditions. General measurement rules have been developed that eliminate 
ambiguity in the classification of responses to semantic markers. This has been accomplished 
through development of objective procedures that additively integrate great numbers. Recent 
individual-environment approaches seem to stress the benefits of viewing established 
constructs as a set of essentially flexible interaction strategies rather than as a set of specific 
intelligence or personality factors. Other researchers maintain that measurement cannot be so 



10 



restrictive and have proposed that various types of observed facts are classified by means of 
schedules or schemes. Though the theoretical implication of these differ with different 
researchers and vary over time. 

Consequently, within the field of logical behaviourism, it has been proposed that 
linguistically defined models would be a better way of projecting environmental (contextual) 
information onto linguistic form. Within this field of methodological development, syntactic- 
semantic networks have been constructed as a means for studying cognitive mapping of 
semantic concepts. Because of their inability to cross artificial boundaries inherent in the 
classical dichotomies such as the subject-object distinction, transitivity versus intransitivity or 
the semantic distinction between agent and experiencer, it is very unlikely that researchers of 
this orientation ever will be able to provide a satisfactory answer of how it is possible that text 
building behaviour in a perfectly reliable and valid fashion can transform an aggregate of joint 
graphemes into a single functional whole, i. e. an AaO unity. 

The arising question is therefore, how PERTEX possibly can constitute a reliable and 
valid contrast. Its superiority over the classical approaches stems from the fact, that it 
circumvents the construction of scales, and semantic networks as well as coupling to it a 
distribution of intensities. Instead, PERTEX utilises language as medium and thus its 
properties of viscosity and elasticity. This implies that competence can be studied as synthesis 
of perception and action and this synthesis can be detected only through language. 

It follows that the researcher or any other objective frame of reference no longer 
provides the point of departure in the establishment of natural law. Instead, it is the individual 
text producer as a token of the biological system under investigation that provides the unique 
physical context for the expression of natural law. 

The Agent as Scale Factor 

Writing is a process similar to growing, especially because both are related to 
development. In the same way as an individual develops physically and mentally as a function 
of age, the physical growth of a text can be observed as it expands over time. However, the 
mental functions inherent in text do not develop exponentially with expanding mass of text. 
The dynamics of the text comes about through movements. These movements are 
characterised by directedness. A biological system producing a writing style constitutes an 
abstraction of the individual text producer, whose textual movements are intentional. This 
implies that it is always the individual text producer, who is intentionally acting, even under 
severe strain or experimental control. He is the agent in the text production. But to what extent 
the agent exerts perspective control over his existence is dependent on his style of approach. 

Individual styles of writing give expression to differences in strategies of approach. 
Similarly, picking up information and putting it into verbal expressions along a chosen path 
may be varied by being smooth or rigid and dynamic or concentrated. Consequently, 
development of an operational language space can be associated with age but the process is 
cyclic and depends to a great deal on individual variations. The rhythm in text building 
behaviour can be as varied as the rhythm of life itself. 

Because text is life, textual agents co-ordinate the textual objectives by moving 
rhythmically and functionally balanced. Of course, it may happen that an agent is involved in to 
much "work out" and stretching, resulting in dislocation of some parts of the "language body". 
To be able to tell something about the consciousness inherited by the textual agents requires 
that biological time comes under the control of the experimenter. Thus like human existence 
has an extension, a history, and a functional embedding into a context, it can be said that the 
consciousness comes into existence by the activity that a biological system performs in writing 
a text into some structural whole. Like the human body, the language incorporates a 



11 



generation-regeneration mechanism, which means that text is not only self-organising but also 
self-referential. 

When text is taken as an expression of competence, it is a priori assumed that its 
patterns of rhythmic movement convert ecological information pickup into a architectural 
configuration which has meaning or significance. Similar to observed individual-environmental 
interactions a text backs up interactions in textual material by textual integration. Insofar as the 
text producer is acting on a given set of principles, the resulting text may be conceived of as an 
expression of his competence. Thus through transformation physical body-interactions become 
meta-physical and thus synthetic in text production. It follows that the expression of 
competence through text production must observe lawful relations and that its existence 
promotes a mental structure whose absolute termini (limits) and lawful connections can be 
discovered as the result of the meta-physical activity of the brain. 

From an evolutionary point of view, it must be that the realisation of a particular 
concept requires the existence of certain brain states. Consequently, competence is neither 
uniform nor universally distributed over biological systems, but causally correlated with 
physical brain states as was emphasised by Sperry (1983, 1993). Since the 1960's, Gallup 
(1970, 1976), for example has studied primates with the purpose of finding out whether and to 
what degree self-recognition can be established as an index of self-awareness. This capacity 
provides a means by which the organism can begin to reason about "self" and to infer a 
similar mental structure in other organisms. This analytical capacity is absent in gorilla 
(Povinelli, 1993). The process of attributing the existence of a concept of self in orang-utans, 
chimpanzees and humans implies its identification with a certain brain state in one-self and 
others. Accordingly, the existence of biological systems, having the ability of attributing atten- 
tion to and making inferences about brain states in others, provides the unique physical context 
for the expression of consciousness. 

Moreover, certain brain states support the existence of a particular mental structure. 
This implies that the competence of a person is something that exists for something else. This 
something cannot be derived analytically out of the person himself, i. e. content-wise, because 
intentional content is, according to Sperry, causally correlated with the physical processes of 
the brain. But classical theory holds that two states cannot be both identical and causally corre- 
lated, intentional content can only be inferred. Though this problem can be circumvented at a 
different level of description, namely the topological. Produced competence can be realised by 
taking into account "non-holonomic" constraints (Kugler & Turvey, 1987) in systemic deduc- 
tion. This means that termini and their connections serve as point of departure for an 
elaboration, articulation and differentiation, and thus a precise description of the phenomenon 
of competence as the product of the brain's synthetic activity. 

Competence and Text Production 

Synthesis means the unfolding of language as system. This is the only system at the 
ecological level through which multivarious geometries (or non-holonomic constraints) 
become available as the result of synthetic activity. This is intra-systemic and its meaning 
emerges only through the Kantian schema. In Kantian terms, the schema constitutes the 
methodological tool for a synthetic (or axiomatic) analysis of language expressions or 
discourse. A related consequence of this emphasis on dissipative structures arising out of non- 
linear processes involved in discourse is the ecological approach to competence development. 

This approach is of a most fundamental societal concern, because it stresses the 
reciprocal action between competence development and language. Stating that competence has 
never been studied in this sense may be provocative. Nevertheless this is a radically different 
orientation compared to the approaches based on the principles governing the psychological 
methods of measuring knowledge as well as the principles underlying the study of language as 
discussed in linguistic literature. The ecological approach contrasts sharply to the commonly 



12 



accepted analytic or cybernetic models. Essential to the approach is the assumption that the 
ability of developing competence in various contexts is inborn and that its main function is to 
preserve the organism's survival potential. 

This kind of competence is not easily defined on the basis of the "universal law" 
approach, because it presupposes a co-ordination of sensory and motor action schemata. In the 
process of co-ordination the individual seems to depend on an ability to integrate experience 
derived from direct contact with the environment. Spontaneously emerging structures in the 
environment can by this co-ordinative ability be immediately (directly) perceived. Especially in 
those situations where the situation appears ambiguous for the individual, because of fusion of 
the empirical with the formal is required, competence need to be defined operationally as the 
formal structure of the product of inquiry. Exactly this is achieved with PTA. It always 
identifies something non-logical with something logical. The non-logical aspect is the core of 
the phenomenon processed, while the logical aspect is its topological structure seen purely 
formally as element of the formal system of differential topology. 

Text becomes Wholeness 

Text writes itself according to limit cycles which implies that limit cycles control the 
discontinuities and changes produced by flow processes. Specifying unit time, here called a 
period, clock-like cyclic and recursive algorithmic procedures establish a dynamic regime. This 
means that the generation and production of a flow based on co-operatively and interactively 
working agents give rise to a cyclic development and the emergence singularities. A 
complementary process initiates a phase-dependent coupling of the flow processes involved. 
Unfolding this coupling shows how language as system makes use of the Schema mechanism 
as the basic control device of the oscillation of its constitutive A- and O-components. 
Constraining and breaking of constraints portray the structural co-ordination of the A's and O's 
and prescribe the process of assembling the objectives into clusters. Thus grouping takes its 
departure in the strict dependency between agents and objectives. In discourse, the text 
producer continually contributes with new agent and objective couplings whose orientation is 
toward an increasing configurational order and the emergence of novelties. 

Thus the verbal flow contains diffused objectives. But the process of formulating and 
re-formulating oneself constrains the diffusion over the flow by patterning the flow itself. 
Assembling these patterns define the quality in the path taken by the text producer. Its phase 
sequences and assemblies of phase sequences are from a formal logical point of view the 
topologically defined informational invariants manifested in the points where a bifurcation 
arises or where two relations cross. Every time a bifurcation can be observed, it initiates a 
naming process that makes explicit some more or less significant shifts in the orientation of 
the path. 

It can be said that continuous changes in the independent parameters directed by 
intention and orientation evoke the various significant groupings of the patterns of strings of 
grapheme representing the terminal states of the system. This grouping is different from 
conventional classification of relations by means of their attributes. In the agglomeration it can 
be observed as a striking fact that diverse and hybrid strings of graphemes can be grouped into 
homogeneous clusters. When functionally similar patterns are agglomerated on the basis of 
intrinsic and irreversible processes, groupings become established, whose significance is 
conceptually indistinguishable from their constraining effects. If these effects are small, they 
will produce a homorhesic path. Though any time the transition from one constraining attractor 
state to another produces a sudden unexpected or exceptional jump, a new state attractor and 
thus a new path comes into existence, resulting in a hysteresis. Naming the state attractors 
responsible for this jump implies mediating invariants, that in a theoretical sense, are funda- 
mentally different in their characterisation of information compared to the informational 
invariants characterising the path before the observed hysteresis. 



13 



Naming a cluster solution results in naming the hierarchical organisation of bifurcated 
point and state attractors of an evolving path. The conditional assumption is that if a 
configuration can be observed and named, then this implies that a structure exists. This 
structure becomes meaningfully represented first through an approach that approximates a 
relationship among various parts of a text as a unity in a plan. Thus textual transformation may 
be envisioned as and symbolised by a snake trying to bite its tail. By maintaining and manifest- 
ing topographic coherence between the names of point and state attractors the nature of the 
transformed information stored in the snake's path can be visualised as changes that reflect the 
snake's progress as controlled by topological constraints. The unity in the evolving temporal 
morphologies thus become self-indicative. Whether and to what extent perspective 
information can be picked up by PTA depends on how the latency of the perspective has 
manifested itself through linguistic cues lying in the texture of a particular text. 

Aspects of Competence 

The Impact of Perspectivation on Thinking in Consequences 

The central idea of including the study of intentions and their possible consequences is 
that it represents a base line to the study of competence. What is required is a research 
methodology which helps making explicit to what extent a person can exert perspective control 
over others. For example, when parents or any other persons exert perspective control over an 
infant's intentions and possible movements this would imply that they overview or 
perspectivate the infant's development. This implies that possible movements are the object of 
experience, before these actually materialise within a particular environment with forthcoming 
effects. This means a co-operation between a person's experience of a physical and social 
milieu and the cognitive integration the care taker is able to achieve. Insofar as the meaning of 
infant-environment interaction is conceived, it is the product of the mind's synthetic activity 
which determines the security radius of the child. 

But independent of degree of cognitive integration of environmental aspects, it has to 
be formulated into natural language expressions, if it shall be knowable both for the person 
himself and accessible for a study of competence. Transforming synthetic activity into symbolic 
expression entwines the perspective and viewpoints in the same way as infant and its 
environment are entwined. But the analysis of symbolic expression could not be performed 
before the perspective could be detached experimentally from its viewpoints. One prerequisite 
for the study of perspectivation is the search for or construction of a test material. This has to 
contain physical or social features that an experimental subject can perceive either on the basis 
of the ongoing process of making experience or on the basis of already made experiences. 
Therefore the material has to give expression to something that is situational and thus 
contextually defined otherwise neither a standpoint can be taken nor a perspective emerge. 
Moreover, the test material has to contain an event of a certain kind. This means that the event 
has to excite the values of the experimental subjects which are assumed to be deeply embedded 
in his mental structure. Such a material exists in a series of four pictures of the Visual Cliff 
published by Gibson and Walk (1960). 

The well-known Visual-Cliff experiments may serve as an illustration of this point of 
view. These experiments could show that the majority of New-born infants of various species 
react adequately to a brink where the environment becomes dangerous. Based on this 
experimental fact, the inference drawn is, that this ability is genetically rooted in both animal 
and humans. Moreover, it is supposed that this phenomenon depends on a genetically rooted 
mechanism, called schema. The schema as biologically endowed, is implicit and the individual 
is not conscious of it, but its existence can be studied through its functioning. For this reason it 
is presumed that an approach to every-day problems this way may help close the gap between 
acquired knowledge which is always a priori and individual competence as something that 



14 



emerges a posteriori. Thus competence can be made explicit only in the human response to 
environmental change. But through language only. 

The mlieu as pictured by this series constitutes a co-operation between physical and 
cognitive conditions. The experimental subject as observer of the child's movements has to 
know what it is that attracts the attention of the child, what significance the event has and what 
kind of actions it can elicit in the child. In the observation of the child the experimental subject 
can take two stand points. Either his expressions are formulated with the child's perspective 
and describe his observations as "my" movements, sense impressions and thinking in an 
unknown milieu. This perspective is narrow minded. If instead the experimental subject takes 
the alternative stand point, a wider perspective can emerge. This perspective builds on 
experience from one's own childhood and should show to what degree the person is able of 
conceiving an intention, i.e. to discriminate general actions from actions of a certain kind. The 
latter are perspectivated on the basis of the significance they have in relation to the milieu. 

A summary of the results is given in Table 1 . The studies show that these two stand 
points are taken by the experimental subjects who are parents of children of crawling age. 

Table 1. 

Mental Constraints of Thinking in Consequences 

Orientation Final Singularity 

Figure Ground 

Caption to Picture Series Falling-off Place Avoidance 

Aesthetic-Moral Ambiguity 

Social Protection 

Care Adventure Trust 

Practical Purposive Behaviour Separation 

Physical-Technical Distress Responsiveness 

Those whose perception is characterised by a narrow perspective, show a tendency to describe 
ongoing processes of making experience. The information picked up by these persons indicates 
a low level of integration. Taking a narrow stand point may therefore be conceived of as the 
locking of perspective to the concrete. An example represented in Table 1 is the experimental 
subject with an "Aesthetic-Moral" interest. The phenomenon is not perceived as "depth" or 
"dangerousness" but something "ambiguous" or "strange". Perspectivation implies the ability to 
give verbal expression to thinking in consequences. Of particular importance for carrying 
through this process is the assumption that empirical observations are linguistically packed in 
such a way that ecologically valid information can be discovered. By this is meant the 
particular affordance that the objects of experience have at the moment of perception. 

It is assumed that a picture can function as link in the study of disintegration of 
experience from childhood at the cognitive level or between awareness of a phenomenon and 
its possible knowability. The ability of cognitive disintegration should not be mixed up with 
parents' emotional ability or involvement. The picture series from the Visual Cliff experiments 
has been described verbally by parents of infants of crawling age. Their free and unrestricted 
verbal descriptions have been made the basis of a study of the importance of direct perception 
in child care (Bierschenk & Bierschenk, 1993). 

From Table 1 it is obvious that "Orientation" covaries with the final outcome or singu- 
larity that emerges on a path. This path describes the competence of a parent in the form of a 
non-holonomic constraint whose contours are built up on the path. Similar to the infant who 
reacts spontaneously over the virtual cliff without being conscious of its ability, the parents as 
text producers are non-conscious of the mental constraints that limit their possibility to adapt 



15 



properly to the situational meaning. By applying PTA in the extraction of the topological 
invariants described by the termini of Table 1, it was possible to give concise topographic 
descriptions of manifested competence. These conceptual relations raise the question of the 
fundamental ability in the individual person to develop survival competence. The first and 
foremost task is therefore to provide the methodological framework for a study of the 
development of consciousness of one's possibility of making a living. 

Projections of the Future 

Periodically newspapers, books and scientific journals publish reflections on "globally 
dangerous developments". In this respect, Sperry (1993, p. 883) advances the idea that a 
pending catastrophe has been initiated by the "vicious spiral of mounting population". People 
who are currently studying the population patterns and associated xenophobic behaviour 
among people and groups of people believe that this kind of problems cannot be solved by 
merely applying more or better scientific knowledge and technology. Those who have been 
exposed to formal teaching may even be justifiably sceptical of the efforts made by educators 
to regulate their ways of thinking. 

In times of economic decline and rising population, energy demands and overall 
environmental degradation, problems of economic and cultural disintegration become 
prompted and reinforce people in being aggressive as well as to challenge the value frame of 
authority. Families, schools and even political parties simply cannot provide the necessary 
"tools of thought", because their general strategies of action are defined by an entirely hierar- 
chic thinking. This kind of thinking may help in making desirable short term changes which by 
definition always are of a quantitative nature. Thereby peoples' adaptation to environmental 
changes is organisationally managed. Moreover, this kind of monitoring may even be 
destructive in the otherwise valuable process of successful competition and adaptation required 
by new developments such as information technology, solar energy or gene manipulation. But 
hierarchisation of facts cannot provide the crucial methodology that may help discover the 
necessary qualitative changes that must be brought about if this "vicious cycle" shall be broken. 
Some the results are summarised in Table 2. 

Table 2. 

Determinants of Thinking in Global Consequences 

Perceiver Figure Ground Means Goal 

Business Adm. Persistence Valuation 

Management Ego-Strength Advantage Indignation Valuation of 



Life 



Civil Eng. Perspective Evasion 

Shift 



Table 2 gives some of the results of a series of experiments which were carried out in order to 
simulate possible catastrophes associated with the development of technological societies. One 
goal was to study "mental" and "ecological" pollution as an effect of the exploitation of human 
and physical resources. Given a physical and social environment that is defined on the basis of 
technological reasoning alone, the emergent singularities have produced marked differences in 
the conception of making a living. With reference to simulated consequences of population 
growth passing important limits, a developmental progression can be observed. 

The progress shows that the doctoral students of Civil Engineering are to a higher 
degree conscious of the cybernetic principles of the simulated model of a modern city com- 
pared to doctoral students of Business Administration and professionals, i. e. managers. It 



16 



emerges a confidence in one's capacity of scientific expertise to control overpowering by 
expansion in society. Fascinated by, or possibly immune to the risks taken by fostering 
continuous growth, its dangerous consequences have been conceived as immaterial. The 
doctoral students of Business Administration manifest an adjustment toward a world where 
moral rights count little. These students have obviously attended to the erodation of ethical 
principles but nevertheless concentrate on the importance of hierarchies in organisation and 
their repressive consequences. In comparison, professionals have perceived the contrasting 
sides of rationality and relational value, but do not derive a reasonable degree of 
consciousness. The typically conceive of themselves as autonomous individuals that are forced 
to examine and adjust their value system (priorities). They stand out as potent self-realisers. At 
one time "many years of experience" was identified with "competence", because there was a 
consensus among those within a discipline. But preparing students for a future that in 
significant ways may be different from the present industrial society requires an assessment of 
peoples knowing. 

Interpretation of the Past 

Against the background of simulated events happening in a possible future society, it 
may be instructive to contrast the information picked up from events that have evolved in the 
past society of the Suiones as described in Tacitus (Chap. 44, Germania). Table 3 gives an 
account of the roots of these configurations. 

Table 3. 

Mental Invariants of European Thinking 

Translation Figure Ground 

English Safety Barrier 

Latin Superiority Dynamic Regime 

French Watchfulness 

Italian Dominance Fitness 

Danish Control of Dangerousness Adjustment 

Swedish Harnessing of Action Safety 

German Strength Rigorousness 

Experts on Tacitus of German, English, French, Italian, Swedish and Danish origin have 
translated its meaning into modern descriptions. The aim of these analyses has been to provide 
a synthesis by means of the kind of structural wholes, manifesting itself in the structural 
relations of their topological configurations. The names given to the roots of the structures 
describe great variations in the mental determinants despite translations that are very similar 
content wise. The extreme cases are represented by the German focus on Strength and the 
English focus on Safety. The experiment makes explicit two main groupings. The English and 
Romance mentalities contrast with a German. The determinants of these two groups seem to 
divide Europe according to "a mental limes" with profound consequences for the development 
of competence. 

Information Sensitivity at the Production Floor 

An indication of the kind of constraints that can be expected will be provided with 
reference to an international study of mechanics. In this study PTA was used with the purpose 
of investigating the kind of competence Swedish, English, West-German, Italian and American 
Volvo mechanics would exhibit when confronted with information processing tasks. Within a 



17 



company or organisation it is of decisive import that information management is efficient, 
otherwise both production and budgetary activities become inhibited. To what extent 
disseminated information is used in every-day activities at a work-place and to what degree its 
distribution effects the single worker in carrying out his duties is less known. Nevertheless a 
company's survival potential seems in a fundamental sense depend on efficient information 
management. The likely kind of mental constraints operating in the determination of 
information processing of car-mechanics is shown in Table 4. 

Table 4. 

Mental Constraints Acting on Information Processing of Mechanics 



Nationality 


Figure 


Ground 


Swedish 


Lack of Quality 


Working Climate 


English 


Information Quality 


Coherence 


West-German 


Knowledge Maintenance 


Measure 


Italian 


Enablement 


Information Structuring 


US 


Worthiness 


Comprehension 



What becomes obvious by an inspection of Table 4 is that information management cannot be 
considered independent of who is the anticipated receiver. Sensitivity to distributed information 
varies greatly. Market sensitive mechanisms seem to govern the way in which workers in 
different countries respond. The more market oriented the offered service is, the higher is the 
workers sensitivity and concentration on competence development. The roots of the mental 
structure of the German and US mechanics respectively give expression to outstanding 
competence compared to the others and especially to the Swedish workers. Their indifference 
to the questions answered marks them as border-line cases. Thus, advanced production 
methods and associated technical developments of service support units administering 
information management cannot speed up information pick-up of the workers. On the contrary, 
computer-based service development contributes only to more pronounced steering of the 
information flow and more administrative tasks. What is lacking, according to the English 
mechanics, is an adequate conceptual development that can be comprehended as coherent 
whole with respect to the service problems to be solved. Moreover, what is asked for by the 
Italian mechanics are functions that enable one's conceptual orientation, structuring and trans- 
formation toward the development of needed competence. 

Policy Formation Processes 

Knowledge of existing mental structures and how these influence subsequent 
professional success would greatly enhance a company's survival potential. How mental 
structures effect the individual in a competitive (survival) situation is a further condition of 
crucial import for an understanding of processes through which competence develops. The 
idea that one's successfulness is dependent on one's competitiveness is especially favoured 
among business men. Closely related to the success-competition interaction is a kind of policy 
developed, implying that a company can initiate its re-orientation only by means of firing and 
hiring. For demonstrative purposes a Power Production Company's way of responding to 
policy problems posed by the energy crises during the 1970s and emergent consciousness of 
environmental pollution of the 1980s will be summarised in Table 5. 



Table 5. 



Mental Determinants of Policy Formation Processes 



Annual Report Figure 


Ground 


Means 


Goal 


1979 Consensus 


Adaptation 


Calculation 


Binding 


1981 Consciousness 


Operation- 
alisation 


Difference 


Synergy 


1983 Functional 


Reliability 


Objectivation 


Constructivity 


Synergy 









The changing conditions of surviving on the market make a difference for both the company 
and its Managing Director. As shown in Table 5, the roots of the mental structure underlying 
the Annual Report of 1979 give expression to an enterprise that is highly dependent on 
resource management. This kind of steering characterises the Power Plant as a company that is 
dependent on government and municipality bodies. Information management is in this kind of 
directing activities concentrated on one-way communication and the imposition of obligations. 
Traditional studies in Economics and Business Administration are designed to provide for the 
development of cognitive skills as represented by the Managing Director responsible for the 
Annual Report of 1979. 

It builds on the assumption that consumer behaviour can be "calculated". Moreover, its 
"consensus" orientation marks this kind of higher education as being founded on the classical 
rational model of economics. The idea behind this model is that an individual as well as a 
company "adapts" with perfect foresight to economic incentives and deterrents. In agreement 
with the model of rational decision making, "office automation" reinforces the utilitarian's 
concentration on the development of administrative power and his concern with distributive 
justice when delivering the quantities people have chosen to consume. Compulsory distribution 
of energy is the necessary precondition for the individual's possession of freedom of choice. 
Consequently, the choices people make are protected by the law. Only insofar as an individual 
has an opportunity to decide differently on his level of consumption is there a freedom of 
choice. Protected choice is associated with a special warrantee and "Binding" to the company's 
administration. Organisational policy formulated in terms of effectiveness and distributional 
justice, however, will not contribute to the resolution of problems associated with envi- 
ronmental crises. Changing the organisation means exchanging the individual. The "Consensus" 
orientation represented by the Managing Director of the 1979 Annual Report appeared to be a 
barrier to the adoption of more energy efficient technologies and practices related to the 
alleviating consumer factor. Thus, success in the administration's activities and their 
modification can be traced to competence development. The underlying assumption is that 
success in organisational activities and their modification is highly dependent on the 
competence represented by certain individuals in the organisation. 

In 1980 it was decided to suspend the administrative orientation and to make 
management less dependent on administrative data bases. Instead, management was expected 
to favour work that required unique solutions to up-coming problems. By hiring a new 
Director a profound re-orientation was initiated. The roots of the mental structures of the 
Annual Report of 1981 clearly signal the import of a confidence in information processing as 
opposed to data processing. As a result a new singularity emerged which was named 
"Consciousness". This term introduces a moral component into the policy formation process. 
With "Consciousness" as final outcome of the Figure-component, "morality is given priority 
over science" as Sperry advocates in 1983. The reason emphasised concentrates on the 
realisation of an "Operationalisation" by means of an experimental conduct. Observed 
"Differences" define the effectiveness of initiated system changes. The efficiency in information 



19 



pick-up, conceptualisation, and formulating its significance into policy statements defines 
successfulness. The policy of this Director must effortfully control technological choices in 
order to ensure a "Synergy" effect. Thus, the higher the financial investment, the more essential 
become the mental determinants. Improving the implementation of energy efficient 
technologies is highly dependent on the Director's mental structure. At the horizon of this 
Director "Synergy" emerges as a most important Goal. 

Progress in understanding the effect of mental constraints on competence and the 
materialisation of conceptual steering mechanisms requires a developmental approach to 
information management. In the present context it is based on the Annual Report of 1983. 
Analysing this document may be viewed of as a follow-up of changes anticipated in 198 1 . The 
major change is associated with the term "Functional Synergy", which now appears as the 
proximate outcome of the Figure-component. The essential foundation for this outcome is 
expressed through the Ground-component, whose singularity concerns the "Reliability" of the 
organisation. The Means-component marks "Objectivation" as the line of conduct. It refers 
here to an organiser, who plans, devices and frames the projects (i.e. objectives) to be carried 
out. Finally, the Goal-component represents the planner's "Constructivity" as distal effect. It 
addresses his concern with the establishment of a relationship between several projects. This is 
a distal situation, where the process is not presently observable but is assumed to exist, because 
it (hypothetically) gives rise to the generation of measurable phenomena. 

Clearly the two Managing Directors illustrate what kind of mental constraints are 
operating in policy formation processes. The competence of the first is limited by an in itself 
well developed analytical ability and environmental adaptation by means of an utility function. 
The major mental determinant of this is "Consensus" which constrains his choice of action to a 
body of value as represented by some authority. 

His successor establishes an organisation that is the product of the second law of 
thermodynamics. Over and above his analytical skills, he demonstrates his competence by 
means of synthesis. Independent of the task orientation, this is expressed through his ability of 
expressing the company's policy in verbal and written form. Moreover, qualified consulting 
work and task force reports are taken as relevant expressions of concept formulation ability. 
Because information pick-up concerns thought processes but not production of statistics or 
any other economic reports, its expression is dependent on the inherent dynamics of language. 
A coherent time-independent structure (the organisation) emerges, which owes its origin and 
characteristic features in large part to experimentation and measurement of the dissipative 
processes that the policy processes engender. His competence gets expression in the 
formulation of the "Operationalisation" of strategy and the observation of "Distances". These 
can be witnessed by others. Hence, his reality rests on "knowing-together", i. e. consciousness 
or competence. This outcome presupposes a co-ordinative conduct on behalf of this manager 
which stands in contrast with his predecessor's sub-ordinative orientation. Only a realisation of 
system co-ordination can generate macroscopic structures as a result of his actions, and thus at 
the horizon appears "Synergy" as the valued Goal of his co-ordinative conduct. 

In 1983, this goal is achieved, because "Synergy" has been transformed into 
"Functional Synergy". This is now the conceptual limit of the Figure-component. This mental 
constraint addresses linkages and bifurcations. On the basis of subtle and mutually dependent 
relationships between the informational aspects of sub-systems, in a constructive way, a 
diversification of a large scale power plant has been achieved. Its common ground is a 
monitoring of natural uncertainty (fluctuations) in decision making through concentration on 
the reliability in the behaviour of its ensembles. In this view, fluctuations in the process are 
controlled by grouping the units into larger ensembles. The ensembles are functional groups 
that can be controlled by utilising the synergy principle, i. e. by concentrating competence. 



20 



Discussion 

The distinction between competence and performance is usually made with reference to 
language. In the study of language and psycholinguistics the embodiment of "abstract rules" 
deeply embedded in cognitive structure are distinguished from what can be observed and 
measured outcome. Thus, the effectiveness in one's use of a language is different from the 
processes which generate a language. The single and most important deficiency are the models 
of linguistic knowledge, language acquisition and behaviour. Their failure is to be found in the 
designed procedures and proposed theories of universal grammar. This excludes the study of 
language as natural phenomenon on its own premises. 

The competence-performance distinction has been out of discussion for a long time, 
mainly due to the fact that competence could not be excluded from performance. So far no one 
has been able to find a way out of the interdependence, because any meaningful verbal 
response to psychological tests of proficiency combines them. This kind of tests is an 
integrated component in the measure of IQ. A long research tradition has tried to establish its 
heredity as well as co-variation with cultural patterns, child rearing practices, educational 
experiences and personality measures. To what extent this research has produced interesting 
results depends on one's scientific perspective. At present psychological theory by no means 
has produced any acceptable explanation of the fact that two individuals, possessing 
comparable language skills and professional knowledge, functionally differ as significantly as 
e. g. the two managing directors involved in policy formation processes concerning energy 
production. 

Moreover, there is convergent evidence that the individual may demonstrate 
outstanding achievements despite lack of peak performances on classical tests. Currently, 
educational and psychological research is unable to produce a satisfactory explanation of 
exceptional achievement patterns. The reason is that the production aspect incorporates 
evolution, that is irreversible time, and this circumstance cannot be handled by traditional 
knowledge models. But continued developmental growth ultimately depends on the 
perspectivation of the knowledge base of a discipline. With PTA the individual's 
perspectivation of knowledge can be made explicit which means that PTA provides a 
resolution to the problem of explaining exceptional achievement. 

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